Lawrence’s Sustainability Advisory Board to consider plastic bag ban; special meeting is Thursday

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The city’s Sustainability Advisory Board on Thursday will hold a special meeting to discuss a draft ordinance that would prohibit establishments from providing or selling single-use disposable plastic bags.

The city has been discussing similar measures for a few years now. A previous draft of the ordinance would have required establishments to charge customers 15 cents per single-use disposable bag for any purchase. 


Produce bags and reusable bags are not included in the proposed ban. Single-use disposable paper bags would still be allowed. 

The ordinance would give establishments one year after it goes into effect to come into compliance. If they do not, they could face fines from the city. 

The city’s goal, according to the draft ordinance, is to educate the public about the environmental hazards of single-use plastic bags, including the harm they can cause animals and the operational costs to the city when they clog the sewers, drainage ditches and recycling machinery. They also degrade into microplastics that contaminate food and water supplies. 

Lawrence residents use between 29.7 million and 35.4 million plastic shopping bags annually, the draft states

The board members will also consider approving a memo to voice their concerns to the Lawrence City Commission about the planned use of methane gas infrastructure for the city’s new multimodal transfer facility. 

According to a March 22 presentation to the commission, “100% electric design will result in capital and operational budgetary increases as well as design schedule impacts.”

Commissioners gave city staff a partial consensus not to use electricity for heat in the building during that work session.

The SAB says this decision is in conflict with the city’s adoption of the Green New Deal principles and goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. The city’s goal is to use 100% clean, renewable energy sources by 2035.

“Comparisons of costs or greenhouse gas emissions of natural gas (methane) infrastructure versus an all-electric infrastructure were not provided by the consultant in the work session,” according to the draft memo. “If costs as discussed at the meeting are considered the primary reason for circumventing adopted policies, plans, goals, and strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, then the SAB requests staff pause the project’s final design and appropriately develop and evaluate cost and greenhouse gas emission data.”

The meeting is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 30. See the full agenda at this link. The meeting will be livestreamed on the city’s YouTube page.

Written public comment can be sent to until noon the day of the meeting. Register at this link to give public comment via Zoom during the meeting. 

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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